An investigation by This Is Money personal finance journalist, Tanya Jefferies, has uncovered a series of errors made by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in under paying pensions to some women. Despite several readers coming forward and claiming back payments of pensions due to them, the DWP has so far failed to confirm it will undertake a review of the pensions paid to all women likely to be affected. It will be up to those affected to make a claim.
Here we explain who may be affected, so that you can identify if you are one of the victims of this mistake and how you can claim any extra pension and back payments which may be due to you.
Reached State Pension Age before 6 April 2016
The State pension is not a means tested benefit and entitlement is based on an individual’s national insurance record, with 30 years contributions being required, to obtain a full basic state pension for those reaching state pension age on or before 5 April 2016.
From 6 April 2016 the State pension changed, and future entitlements will be based solely on the individual’s national insurance payment or credit record. Up until then, married women who reached State retirement age on or before 5 April 2016, who had less than 30 years contributions or credits, received an uplift in their pension when their husband turned 65, so that their pension would be at least 60% of his basic State pension entitlement.
Until 2008 women eligible for this benefit had to claim it. From 17 March 2008 the process was changed so that the DWP would instead pay this automatically. But thousands of women eligible have not received this increase in their State pension.
This is Money’s investigation was sparked by readers who had tried to claim this benefit and back dated sum. Many had contacted the DWP but encountered difficulty in establishing their claim. Thanks to the publicity gained by the story the DWP has now increased their pensions and paid arrears and interest but still has not reviewed all its records to see if others are similarly affected. Based on research by actuaries Lane, Clark and Peacock, former Pensions Minister Sir Steve Webb believes that thousands of women may be losing State pension they are entitled to.
How Much Is The Married Women’s State Pension?
An easy way to check is to look at the annual statement which DWP sends to state pensioners showing the pension payable from 1 April. If the basic state pension is less than 60% of his basic state pension, you may not have received the increase due from your husband’s 65th birthday. You should contact the DWP Pensions Centre 0800 731 7898 to query this, request the increase, back payments and interest. Have both your National Insurance numbers and state pension statements to hand.
Widow's and Estates
Those who have been widowed may still apply, if their husband was over 65 before 6 April 2016. The estates of any women who have died since 2008 may also apply if they believe that the deceased pensioner was not receiving their full entitlement.
Couples aged 77 and over
Since these cases came to light some women whose husband’s reached State pension age before 17 March 2008, when an application was required have also come forward to claim the increase and back payments, as they believe they did not receive and invitation to apply at that time. In this case DWP is only prepared to make one year’s back payment, despite up to 12 years pensions having been missed.
LEBC believes that the DWP should audit all their records and proactively contact anyone who has not received the correct State pension. For now, the DWP appears to be relying on dealing with this as pensioners self-identify on a case by case basis.
Campaigners, including former Pensions Ministers Steve Webb and Ros Altmann, are disappointed that the DWP has not so far responded more positively and instead are relying on those affected hearing about this via the media. It is likely that the matter will be referred to the Parliamentary Ombudsman for review but in the meantime, do pass this information on to any friends or family who may be affected so that they may claim the increase and arrears now.
Director of Public Policy
Please remember, no news or research item is a recommendation or advice to buy. LEBC Group Ltd is not responsible for accuracy and may not share the author’s views. The contents of this blog are for information purposes only and do not constitute individual advice. All information is based on our current understanding of taxation legislation and regulations. The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate estate planning, tax advice, wills or trusts.Back to News & Views